While out hiking last weekend, I stopped to read a sign talking about the history of the area. A number of outlaws used to hide out in the area in the early 1900s. Then, in the 1940s a bishop went to the gravesite of one of the men and he cast the sins of the dead man into a goat. And this was called “scapegoating”. I was pretty surprised. I’d never heard of such a ritual, and it sounded like voodoo. Well, maybe I had never heard of it because it was a weird Catholic thing (I had been raised Protestant). Turns out that “scapegoating” goes back to the Judaism and the Old Testament. (Although, come to think about it – all the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament sound like voodoo. I guess it’s completely different when you kill a lamb rather than a chicken.)
Scapegoat has an interesting etymology. Originally, it is a Biblical reference, to Leviticus 16. The scapegoat was a goat let loose in the wilderness on Yom Kippur after the high priest symbolically laid the sins of the people on its head. The usual sense now, ‘a person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place’, is a figurative use of the Biblical meaning. (Link)
What a bizarre ritual.